Everyone has their list of their favorite WrestleMania matches; the ones they consider the best ever. Yet wrestling matches often look better in the review mirror. Every now and again it can be a slap in the face to turn around and re-watch a match, only for it to be disappointing the second time around. The same can happen for matches that slid under the radar. Given the deep and rich history of WrestleMania, it’s inevitable that great matches will go unnoticed, while others will be overblown as classics. This tends to happen in general, not just at Mania. Last week’s Nosebleeds dove into a couple of matches from WrestleMania past. These matches were reexamined as being hyped up as great when they really weren’t, or better than people give them credit for. The analysis continues this week with three more matches. One of these matches fans see as an all-time classic, but it has its flaws. The other two have not been given their props for their quality and deserve to get a little more credit.
Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle (WrestleMania XXI from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California)
Michaels and Angle had high expectations going into their 2005 Hollywood showdown. There are still many fans today that look back on this match as one of the greatest. When I first saw this live with twenty other people crammed into a friend’s house, I enjoyed it. However, repeated viewings have made me question its praise. The opening moments of the match were a bit awkward. It could be that is should come off that way, since Angle was trying to take HBK to the mat with his amateur style, while Michaels struggled to gain the upper hand wresting a traditional style. The action spilled to the outside when HBK nearly tore Angle’s head off with a clothesline over the top rope. Angle countered by Angle Slamming Michaels into the ring post. It was a spectacular spot that laid out what the rest of the match would look like: Angle working over the back of HBK while the hero struggled to make a comeback. That was not the case. Once back in the ring, Angle applied a body scissors for a brief time, and then both guys moved on. The ring post spot meant nothing and the match didn’t seem to have a central theme or story. Michaels then proceeded to perform two high risk moves from the top rope to the outside, one of which he tripped on the top rope and fell onto Angle. They then made their way back into the ring for the finishing stretch.
For those of you who have read HBK’s book, Heartbreak and Triumph, HBK goes into detail about the proceedings of this match. He wanted to put over Angle since John Cena and Batista were the two big baby faces going over in the double main event. The line of thought was that they would need a heel to work with, so why not put over Angle to have a strong heel ready for the new champions? Not only would Angle win, but he would win with the best move he had: the ankle lock. The book then illustrates Pat Patterson full of pride in how far Michaels had come. This is not to discount any of the progress Michaels made as a human being. It just seems more like a way to end the book on a high note than what this match really meant. By the time Michaels tapped out to the ankle lock, he had been in the hold for two minutes. HBK seemed more bored than in pain. After all was said and done, Michaels came out with the momentum. Even in triumph, Angle looked inferior. The match wasn’t awful. It just wasn’t one of the best. It’s a shame that this is a match that gets so much attention when both had much better Mania matches in their careers.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Christian (WrestleMania XVIII from the SkyDome in Toronto, Ontario)
No other WrestleMania match in the last decade is overlooked as much as DDP vs. Christian. The build was about DDP trying he help Christian get his grove back by having a positive outlook. Christian soon turned on his would-be mentor and challenged him for the European Championship in Toronto. The moves were executed with precession and the counters were spot on without seeming over the top. Both men showed the ability to tell a story with hints of comedy. Having DDP pick up the win in the end was fitting for the feud, illustrating in a comedic and serious way that a positive attitude wins over pessimism any day. It seemed like a throwaway match on a card that featured The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock and Triple H vs. Chris Jericho. The second match on the show, DDP and Christian had an incredible match in just less than seven minutes. WrestleMania XVIII is often forgotten about as a solid show; mainly because of the main event bomb between Jericho and Triple H, as well as the fact it had to follow WrestleMania XVII, which most fans consider the best Mania ever. Just as XVIII is overlooked as a good show, Christian vs. DDP is forgotten as a great match in Mania history.
Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James (WrestleMania XXII from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois)
Women’s matches don’t get a lot of credit for their quality when it comes to WrestleMania. When Trish Stratus and Mickie James met in 2006, it was a show stealer. Mickie’s obsession with Trish was the driving force in the match. Trish’s reaction to James made her character more complex. It was compelling to see her loose it a bit, only for it to cost her in the end. The sexual overtones were reminiscent of the Goldust-Razor Ramon feud in 1996. As sleazy as it may have felt, it worked. Stratus, as one of the best Divas in the last twenty years, had her best WrestleMania match on this night.
Every individual wrestling fan changes their tastes over time. It happens when they grow up or experience something new that opens their eyes in a different way. With increased access to wrestling’s past through the internet, wrestling fans have a chance to gain more knowledge of the industry than ever before. Anyone can read what is in this column and agree or disagree, but there is nothing like engaging yourself and coming up with your own view.